Canary Beck by Strawberry Singh 4 of 4 – and how I design posters in Second Life

Canary Beck by Strawberry Singh, in the Basilique ShowTents (Make this bigger!!)
Canary Beck by Strawberry Singh, at the Basilique ShowTents (Make this bigger for added awesomesauce!!)

Before the uptake of film photography and the explosion of mass advertising as an industrialised machine, most printed messaging was done by poster. These posters would feature messages related to pretty much anything one wanted to promote, whether it was a product, political propaganda, public service announcements and of course, performances. Despite not owning many personally, I greatly admire the work that went into Vintage Posters that were produced before the 1950s, especially WW2 propaganda and advertisements for booze.

The Basilique Club is loosely themed on a small town on the French-Italian border in a pre-WW2 alternate reality. Seeing as this was the time and place for some of the best poster art ever designed, I wanted a top quality poster to promote our first performance, the Burlesque Spectacular.

I can take a decent photo in Second Life (see Harvey’s poster below), but when I want to go that extra mile I turn to the professionals. So part of the shoot I had in mind with Strawberry Singh was very much about getting the right photo for this poster:

Presenting my very first SL stage performance with Purdie Silkamour
Presenting my very first SL stage performance with Purdie Silkamour

I’m not a graphic designer and don’t have any graphic design training, but I figure I have a decent eye for these kinds of things. So when it came to designing this poster, I first cropped Berry’s outstanding photograph so that I’d be in the left third, with the title of the show in the top right third (or thereabouts). Berry’s photo was so good already, with a windlight she created just for the shoot, that I really didn’t have to do anything at all but add text. Easy!

For the typography, I adopted a set of principles from Robin William’s Non-Designer’s Design Book: CRAP, and fired up iWork’s Keynote. CRAP is an acronym for Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity.

You can use these principles for posters, presentations, websites and pretty much anything that you want to design using images and text.

  • Contrast: Contrast refers to the difference in size, shape, or colour used to distinguish text or other elements from their backgrounds, and from each other. For example, I wanted the title of the show “BURLESQUE SPECTACULAR” to really stand out against both the background and the other text. So, I set that in white (actually, it’s a little off-white because white feels too artificial to me). I also increased the size of it relative to everything else, ensured it was in a different typeface than most of the other text, and ALL CAPS. I don’t suggest using ALL CAPS too much, but in certain contexts (vintage poster art being one), it works. Note also that I don’t use the same typeface used in the logo (Basilique) for anything else. That’s a rule for me, because keeping that text unique on the page adds to the logo’s distinctiveness (and contrast) – which is very much the point of a logo.
  • Repetition: There are various examples of repetition in the typefaces I chose above. For example I used the same typeface for the producer “KamaSutra Productions Presents” and the joining phrases like “with” and “For a Very Limited Engagement”. To me, these phrases were less important elements that I wanted to de-emphasise (hence the low contrast script font), but they were of similar importance, so I went with the same typeface. You’ll also notice a typeface repetition with the title of the show and the performers (Purdie Silkamour and Canary Beck). Again, I considered them to be of similar importance, but different, so I chose to repeat the font, but contrast the colour. The size contrast between the first names and the surnames is a technique I also borrowed from Vintage Poster Art – especially old movie posters – where they did that type of thing a lot to promote star billing. Lastly, I like to borrow a colour from the image that I want to emphasise in the text, which in this case was the red in my outfit, which I approximated as much as I could using an eye-dropper to get the RGB levels.
  • Alignment: Alignment creates a cohesive appearance to your text. One thing I avoid like the plague is the centering of text. Not only is it amateur, it tends to be harder to read, but it’s a wishy-washy middle option that avoids taking any kind of stand (hard left or hard right). In Vintage Posters, however, centering is a style that evokes the genre. So I used it, but added the white lines to create a illusion of a text box – they’re subtle, but without them there is less cohesiveness in the text part of the poster. Because I wanted to add a little pizazz and movement, I slanted the text box about 15 degrees, which I think adds to the excitement of the text a bit. You can see the difference in the antique version of the poster below.
  • Proximity: This refers to where things are placed in relationship to each other. While white space is important, scattering things at random to create white space is NOT a good idea. I could have gone a bit farther with this, but the text body has three distinct parts to it, the logo ending with the word “presents”, followed by the show title and the players, and lastly the specific details of where and when, starting with “For a very limited engagement” and ending with the “Formal Dress”

As an aside, I first picked up William’s book in 2004 and it’s still very valuable today for both evaluating and generating design, with simple principles that pretty much anyone can understand.

Before settling on this design above, I experimented a bit with the image in PicMonkey while using off-white text. Here were the results of that experiment:

Antique Version of the Burlesque Spectacular Poster
Antique Version of the Burlesque Spectacular Poster

I liked the effect that PicMonkey provided after playing around with their filters, but when I tried showing this inworld in our windlight settings, the result was so dark that it didn’t really work as well as the original photo by Berry I ended up going with. I do love what I could do with PicMonkey. The thing is, when you start off with such great imagery to begin with, you can sometimes erode it with over-production.

I used the same principles when designing the poster for Harvey’s show, which is below. I took this photo at very high-definition, but because my skills aren’t anywhere as developed as Berry’s, I had to then edit it in PicMonkey. Afterwards, I brought it into Keynote again, and added the text. By the way, if you have a Mac, Keynote – which is Apple’s answer to PowerPoint – is an ultra-simple way of designing things like this, without boggling your mind with a billion tools and options that you’ll likely never use for most day-to-day work or fun.

So here is the Poster for Harvey’s show. Importantly, I wanted the poster, and all the future posters for all of our performances, to be part of the same family. You might imagine putting these all up for a season’s worth of shows, and they’d all fit together like a larger oeuvre. For this poster, I wanted to update the style a bit – which I did with my choice of typography – because the performance really didn’t have a lot to do with anything vintage, but I still wanted to keep up the theme of the Basilique.

See if you can spot the design principles at work:

An Evening of Campfire and Song Poster
An Evening of Campfire and Song

Oh! And before I forget, if you like Vintage Posters and would like to have some in your home or business in SL, make sure you pay a visit to Purdink’s Marketplace Store, which has a fantastic choice of affordably priced yet beautifully framed Vintage Art from all sorts of periods.  You’ll also find in the Basilique Square. Here is a small sample of what they have on offer:

Purdink at Basilique Square
Purdink at Basilique Square

3 thoughts on “Canary Beck by Strawberry Singh 4 of 4 – and how I design posters in Second Life

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